Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Why I Will Not Sign the Nashville Statement

The Nashville Statement is a statement drafted by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) and the Southern Baptist Convention. Both organizations, although they promote biblical morals and Christian living, have people in their leadership who reject that faith in Christ alone for salvation is the sole means of justification. Upon looking at the list of signers, I saw 4 individuals on the first few lines who are prominent authors and pastors who teach a works based salvation that rejects the grace of God.

Nonetheless, I proceeded to read through the Nashville Statement. It was very short and straight to the point. It is a very well written and loving statement about the biblical view of sex. 
To hear opponents of it talk, one would assume it was an attack on people who are attracted to those of the same sex or people who suffer from Gender Dysphoria. I found it to be the exact opposite. It holds no hateful rhetoric or words, it encourages no violence or ill will towards anyone. It speaks of no condemnation. It is about showing love to everyone, regardless of what sin someone is involved with. It encourages Christians to treat everyone with the compassion and love of Christ. 

  • As someone who is an advocate for sexual purity before marriage, I love that that is included in the statement. So many people, Christians and non-Christians, forget that sex before marriage is no different that sex with someone of the same sex. Both are sexual sins that not only affect the individual committing them, but the other person. Both are sins that damage humans at their deepest possible level. Many Christians forget this. Many Christians view sex with someone of the same sex as worse than sex outside of marriage. This leads to awful and hateful treatment towards certain individuals. To someone who knows scripture, the forgetting of these things is seen as hypocrisy and foolishness. I am very glad that the Nashville Statement addresses that sex outside of marriage is no different than sex with someone of the same sex. They are the same sin and are both paid for by Christ on the Cross. 
  • I also love that it talks about how people should treat others in a loving way if they struggle with any sin, sexual or otherwise. 
  • I love that it talks about how God's grace is sufficient to help people overcome sins. I've seen this first hand with friends who have struggled with sexual sins, drugs, alcohol, and many other types of sin. No type of sin, no matter how big their consequence, is big enough for the power of Christ to overcome or forgive. That is the beauty of God's amazing grace.
  • I love how it talks about how marriage isn't a human contract, but a covenant made before God. Marriage is a sacred bond created by God for one man and one woman for life that is a symbol of Christ and the church. Our culture has made marriage into a legal and social contract between two people who love each other. That, I suppose, is why non-Christians get married. Our culture has turned a sacred and beautiful bond and symbol created by God into another legal and social concept. 

Overall, the Nashville Statement is a loving statement reaffirming the love of Christ for His church, reminding Christians how they should treat everyone with love and kindness. 

The ONE point I disagree with it on is in Article XIV where it states that believing in Christ alone is not sufficient for salvation and that good works are required. Instead of saying that eternal life is given freely to those who simply believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior (John 3:16, Acts 16:30-31, Eph. 2:8-9), the Nashville Statement adds to that. It states that in addition to believing in Christ alone, one must "repent of sin". Not once in scripture is it stated that repenting of sin is a condition for justification. In fact, it is impossible for an unbeliever or even a believer to repent of all sins. We know that, as humans, we are fallen and tainted with a sin nature. We will keep on sinning until the day we die. Sure, as believers, the Holy Spirit enables us with power over sin, the power to not sin, but that is something we must be willing to do. It is an effort on our part. Most of the time we fail, but that is where grace comes in. 

By stating that eternal life is received by believing AND repenting of sins, the Nashville Statement is essentially saying that what Christ did on the cross was not sufficient for salvation, and that we must do something to gain eternal life. By saying that, it also contradicts scripture where over 100 times (approximately 70 times in the book of John alone) it is stated that the sole means by which one is justified before God (saved) is by simply believing that Jesus is the Christ and that He died for our sins and rose again. 

Sadly, in attempts to redirect a misguided Christian culture towards biblical truth (which it does beautifully in regards to biblical sexuality) the Nashville Statement misdirects a Christian culture and a non-Christian world in regards to eternal salvation. Although I agree with 99% of what it says, that sole reason in Article XIV is why I am not signing the Nashville Statement. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The American Daily

I know, it has been quite a while since I have posted on here. Ive been pretty busy with life. Working a full time job, plus apartment hunting and leading multiple bible studies can be quite time consuming. In addition to that, I have been wrapped up in another social activity: Community Theatre. Back in September I auditioned for a music at my local community theatre, and to my surprise, I made the cut. We started practicing that month, and we opened on the 10th of November. We will have a 9 show run. Its physically and mentally draining, but I love it. Our show is called Urinetown: The Musical. It is a comedic musical satire about a corrupt businessman who has a monopoly of bathrooms and charges people to pee. I play one of the poor rebel scum that rises up to fight for their right to pee for free. I am surrounded by a lot of very talented people in this show. That is another reason why I haven't had much time to write on here.

Additionally, I have started writing as a contributing writer on the online political magazine, The American Daily.  My first article on this site was my reaction to the election. I encourage you to go read it.

I plan to post a new blog post on here very soon. Stay tuned!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Finding Our Identity: What We Do Is Not Who We Are

After a year of being pretty much unemployed, save for only working one day a week, I have started a new job. It’s nothing too fancy, and it’s not at all what I thought I would be doing with my degree. I help manage an online store of a very successful e-commerce business that is growing very fast. I sit at a desk from 8AM till 4PM with only 30 minutes allotted for break time a day. It is very laid back and yet still very professional. The people are nice and the way the business is run is very impressive.

After only a week working there, I found myself thinking, “how in the world am I to do anything meaningful for the Lord while sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day, only really having contact with the three or four people in the cubicles around me?” After a year of praying for God to use me for His glory and ministry, I’m stuck here in a cubicle.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my cubicle and desk.

I thought for sure the Lord would lead me to a ministry job of some sorts that helped to make a difference in the lives of others. During the majority of my college career I was on the frontlines of war. A culture war, a spiritual war, a war determined the life or death of millions of Americans. While attending Summit Ministries, the Lord spoke to me telling me that He wanted me to go to war. After seeking the advice and counsel of several mentors, I answered God’s call. At the time, I did not know that I was going to war, but it wouldn’t take long for me to find out. This war was against death itself. The Lord called me to be a voice for the voiceless, to stand up for those who could not stand up for themselves. He called me to sand up against Abortion. Since 1973, abortion has taken the lives of over 60 million innocent human beings in America. That is ten times as many than were killed in Hitler’s Holocaust. My first step in this battle was to restart my college’s Pro-Life group. I had been involved with it briefly my freshman year but didn’t really know much about the subject. At Summit God provided me with the resources I needed to learn in order to lead this group. With the help of the Lord, and my good friend Robby, we rebuilt the group from the ground up and we accomplished a lot. We focused of educating people about abortion and helping pregnant and parenting students on campus. We had baby showers, information booths, fund raisers for our local pregnancy care center that we helped to open. The Lord was using us to accomplish great things.

I was also given the opportunity to do a 3-month internship in the nation’s capitol working with several major pro-life organizations as well as in the office of a pro-life congressman. I was in the heat of the cultural, intellectual, and spiritual battle for the equal right to life of all human beings. I saw the evil one in the faces and slogans of the angry and militant protestors who wanted the right to kill their children. I saw the affects of the evil one in the faces and tears of women and men who had been badly hurt by abortion. I met post-abortive men and women whose regret caused them to become pro-life activists. I met former abortionists and abortion clinic workers who are now standing up for the right to life. I met people who were born due to their mother’s being raped, that were told by society that because of the circumstances of their their conception, that they did not have the right to live. I even met a survivor of a failed abortion who now travels the country telling her story. I heard story after story of the terrible affects that abortion had on society. I was surrounded by death and pain. I knew that the Lord was using me to help people, and I knew that it was nothing that I could have ever done myself, it was only through His leading that I was able to help these people. I was found that I was most comfortable at war. The fields were rip for the Lord’s healing. That’s where He led me, and that’s what I was to do. I even wrote a small book that focused on getting churches and ministers educated and more involved with helping to end abortion and helping those that suffer because of it.

Students For Life Interns on the steps of the Supreme Court in July of 2014

After I graduated from college I spent a year of unemployment. During that time, I helped lead multiple Bible studies, helped to mentor and encourage many people, and share the gospel with many people. Although jobless, I was being used by the Lord to minister to people. Towards the end of my unemployment and into the beginning of my new job, the evil one placed thoughts into my mind telling me that I was useless. As I observed my situation, I realized something that I had never realized before. Many times in movies and in real life, characters and individuals that have spent time in war have a hard time adjusting back to normal life. The conflict and excitement became normal for them, they were serving a great purpose and helping to protect innocent people. When they returned to normal life, it was too dull, they felt useless, they had still had the mentality of a soldier but were not on the frontlines any more. I used to think that was a silly concept, but I finally understood it. The feeling of knowing you are being used for something great and protecting innocent people from the evil one is a rewarding feeling and, despite the horrors they face, everyday they wake up ready to serve. I now understood that. I was back home from a war that was continuing to wage on. I realized that even though I was no longer on the frontlines like I was so accustomed to, I can still contribute to the fight. I can continue to educate people about the issue of abortion, I can still volunteer at my local pregnancy care center, I can still write about it and discuss it with people. That isn’t as glorious and showy as being on the frontlines, but it is equally as important. Simply a different front to fight on.

I know, you’re probably wondering, “how does this relate to his new job that he talked about in the beginning?”. I’m glad you asked. As I previously stated, I recently started thinking, “how in the world am I to do anything meaningful for the Lord while sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day, only really having contact with the three or four people in the cubicles around me?”. I thought that I would have a job in the pro-life movement or in some type of Christian non-profit that made a difference in people’s lives. I wasn’t in it for the money, I was in it to help people. As long as I had enough to make ends meet, I was content. But alas, here I am sitting on my butt 8 hours a day. Several people I know, and a Bible verse helped me to come to terms with this quandary. Upon bringing this up to my friend and mentor, Daniel Brown, he made me realize that you don’t have to work in a ministry to have a ministry. He said something along the lines of, “Do your ministry after work, invest in people and meet with people after your work day, that’s what I do.”  That made sense. Although I can still minister to people at my work, if the opportunity presents itself, my after work hours are where I can do my ministry to others. A week later I was talking to a very inspiring pro-life advocate by the name of Jason Jones. You can read his story of how the death of his daughter through abortion changed the course of his life here.

I was asking Jason for advice on a political matter and he sent me a link to a video that he filmed a few weeks earlier. While the answer he gave answered the question I asked, it went deeper and helped me with this personal issue of ministry that I have been trying to come to terms with. In the video he sent me he was addressing conservative people who are worried about the election and don’t feel comfortable voting for Donald Trump. He pointed out that if we think that the only thing that matters in politics and saving our country is the presidential election, then we know nothing about politics. He said that if we really care about our country and our future, we should be involved in the free institutions of civil society such as our churches, our families, our neighborhoods, our communities. Jason said, “You know, we all only have so much time and so much energy. There are a lot of races and cycles, the presidential election is just one.” Not only did this answer the initial question I asked him, it made me think about my job and ministry. We all only have so much time and energy, and yes, there are a lot of opportunities for for ministry, but our place of work is only one opportunity. So what if you don’t work in a ministry position, there are tons of other places that you can minister in. That’s what I took away from what he said. God was able to use Jason’s advice on one subject to help me in another area of my life.

The last and final thing that helped me figure this thing out came to me while preparing to lead my Monday night bible study. I was reading through 1 Corinthians 9. In this letter the apostle Paul is defending his right as an apostle to get financial support from churches. Although he refuses to take anything from the church in Corinth, he tells them that he is entitled to it nonetheless.

“Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me.  Don’t we have the right to food and drink? Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?” 
-1 Cor. 9:1-6

As much ministry as Paul and his ever- encouraging companion, Barnabas, did, they still had a day job that they worked at to receive money to live on. I’m not sure what Barnabas did, but we know that from Acts 18:3 that Paul was a tentmaker. Several times throughout his letters Paul references working (1 Cor. 4:12, 1 Thess. 2:9, and 1 Thess. 4:11). So, even the greatest missionary that ever lived, a man who dedicated his entire life to the point of death for Christ, even he had a day job that he did in addition to his amazing ministry. His day job was not what defined him, a tentmaker is not what he was most well known for. It was a minor part of his life.

All this to say, I realized that I was looking for a job in a ministry so that I could identify as this ministry or that ministry. In our society we place so much on our occupation. When you meet someone new, one of the first questions you ask them is “where do you work?” or “what do you do for a living?”. We identify people as “Andy the mechanic”, “John the college professor” or “Steven the doctor”. As a society we are to blame for identifying people as their occupations. That’s they way everyone sees it: you are what you do. Its such a huge deal. But as Christians, should we make such a big deal over where we work? Should our identities be reduced to our occupation? A friend and mentor of mine often says, “I’m not a doctor who happens to be a Christian, I’m a Christian who happens to be a doctor.”. Doctoring is what he does, but it isn’t who he is. He is a Christian. As Christians we find our identity in Christ. We are children of God (John 1:12), branches of the true vine (John 15:1-5), friends of Jesus (John 15:15), justified and redeemed (Romans 3:24), crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:6), free of condemnation (Rom. 8:1), co-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17), saints (1 Cor. 1:2), temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19), and the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). We are so much more than simply our occupation. What we do does not define or identify us.

So, let’s be like Paul, he didn’t identify as a tentmaker, he identified as many different things, all within the framework of his identity in Christ.

It’s not to say that you can’t have a ministry at work. That is totally fine. Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,”. Ephesians 6:7 says, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people,”.  We can also be a light in a dark world at work just by having a good attitude and being kind to all people. Let everyone see something different in you. Let Christ shine through you. As my momma always says, “You might be the only Jesus that some people see.”. There are so manylittle things we can do at work that bring glory to God.

In closing, I want to share with you some wise words by Keith Krell, his identity is a Christian, but his occupation is senior pastor of Fourth Memorial Church in Spokane, WA and associate professor of biblical exposition at Moody Bible Institute–Spokane. He says,

"In 1 Thess. 2:9 Paul writes, “For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.” If you read 1 Corinthians 9, Paul makes it clear in that passage that he doesn’t consider it wrong for a man to live off the preaching of the gospel. And in 1 Timothy 5 he says that an elder who both rules and teaches is worthy of “double honor,” which presumes that elders would in fact be paid for their work. But he himself apparently worked in secular jobs wherever he went so that he would be free of any accusations about his motives. His work ethic was exemplary. Tragically, many Christians give Christianity a black-eye because of their poor work performance. This is a crying shame, since work is an expression of worship and it also serves as a powerful witness. This week, will you go to your cubicle or your classroom or home and work as unto the Lord? As you work your daily grind for the glory of God the mundane and monotonous nature of your work can become extraordinary in its kingdom impact. A little example can have a big influence.”

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Patience and Contentment

I graduated college in May of 2015, over a year ago. I’ve been looking for a job ever since. While looking for a job I worked part time (one day a week) filming high school and community college sports across Mississippi for 11 months. I’m not that big into sports, but I know how to work a camera and needed the money. It was not fun, but the money was good. Overall, It has a difficult year. The main lesson I learned was to trust in the Lord. I never doubted that He had a job somewhere for me, so that gave me hope for the future and that helped me stay content. During that year, I learned patience the hard way. Patience and contentment were the biggest things I learned.  A lot of my days were spent at Starbucks on my computer looking online for jobs. I must have applied for over 100 jobs, and out of those, I only heard anything back from about 25% of them, and out of that 25%, only about 10% seemed interested, and out of that 10% only about 5% called me in for an interview. The wait and the negative responses I got made it easy to get depressed and feel bad about myself, but instead of having a pity party, I redirected that to my hope in the Lord. Every time I submitted my resume or applied for an application I prayed “Lord, if this isn’t the job for me, please close the door in my face. If it is for me, please open the door. Not my will, but yours.”

As I mentioned, during this time, I spent a lot of time sitting in Starbucks. There I got to know the Baristas and other regular customers fairly well. I was able to help encourage people and talk about God to people. One of my professors who quickly became my friend, asked me “What if you are unemployed because there is one person that God wants you to talk to?” This made me think. If the Lord could use me to give a word of encouragement that changed their life, or share the gospel to at least one person, me being unemployed would be totally worth it. I got to talk with and encourage many people, as well as share the gospel with an atheist Australian street performer in New Orleans. I also got to know a regular at Starbucks named Jamal. Jamal is a Muslim Saudi Arabian who is working on his PhD at Mississippi State University. English is not his first language, so he would always bring me his laptop and have me proof-read his papers for school. In addition to helping him with his papers, over the year we didn’t exchange much more than basic pleasantries and greetings. Every time I talked to him I kept feeling like I needed to share the gospel with him. But sadly , our conversations never went in that direction. Well, finally, in mid June of 2016, he and I were talking about life and how people act, and the door was opened for me to share the gospel with him. I was able to share with him the simple truths of what Jesus did and the concept of God’s grace and how there is nothing that we need to do in order to be saved, just simply believe. It was a very organic conversation that fell in line with what we were talking about and wasn’t forced. I didn’t see him convert on the spot, I simply planted a seed, a pebble in his shoe that hopefully he will take out and further examine in the future. A week after that, I was offered a job at a locally owned and operated online store. Maybe Jamal was the reason the Lord had me to be unemployed for so long: so I could build a relationship with him and eventually share the gospel with him. I guess I’ll find out in eternity.

I write this to encourage people in similar situations that no matter where you find yourself in life, no matter what you may be going through, no matter what the future looks like, TRUST THE LORD! Romans 8:28 says “He works everything together for the good of those who love Him.” This has been a comforting verse to me for many years, and it shows me that no matter what happens, whether we think it is good, or whether we think it is bad, the Lord uses those situations to help build and better us. We need only to trust Him. As long as we are trusting Him, He will provide for us and lead us to where He wants us.

A song that encouraged me a lot through this past year, was “Finish What He Started” by Steven Curtis Chapman. One set of lyrics really sticks out to me:

And it may feel like 40 long days in a hard driving rain
Or 40 years in a dry desert sand
But when He’s finished we will SEE
A beautiful tapestry
And know that nothing has been wasted in the end
Oh, and God will, He will finish what He started
No thread will be unwoven
Nothing will be left undone
Every plan and every purpose
That He has will be accomplished
And God will finish what He’s begun
And we’ll stand as the ones completed
By the miracle of His love

Stay strong, my brothers and sisters, trust in the Lord and lean not on your own understanding, although in our hearts we try to plan our course, it is the Lord that establishes our steps.